theGrio’s April Ryan presses Biden about U.S. apology for Tulsa Massacre

“Mr. President, should there be an apology for Tulsa, for the massacre sir?” White House Correspondent April Ryan asked President Biden at the 100-year commemoration on Tuesday.

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theGrio’s White House Correspondent April Ryan asked President Joe Biden at the 100-year commemoration of the Tulsa Massacre.

As shown in Ryan’s exclusive video capturing the moment, Ryan continued to press as Biden was guided away by his senior advisor Cedric Richmond following a tour of the memorial wall for Black Wall Street. 

“Mr. President should there be an apology, a presidential apology, for the massacre here in Tulsa?” Ryan asked.

While Biden never responded, Ryan did get a response from Greenwood Cultural Center Program Coordinator Michelle Brown-Burdex, who was walking alongside the president when Ryan posed the questions.

“Yes, an apology is necessary, definitely from the people who, or the organizations that were responsible, but what we want is actually reparations,” Brown-Burdex told theGrio. “There can be no reconciliation without reparations.”

On May 31, 1921, white mobs murdered 300 Black people and destroyed a thriving Black community in Greenwood District, also known as Black Wall Street. Another reported 10,000 people were left homeless. 100 years later, the community is still fighting for justice.

On Tuesday, Biden joined officials and community members in Tulsa to mark the historic event, becoming the first sitting president to visit the site. 

“This was not a riot, this was a massacre,” Biden said. As theGrio reported, those were strategic words that hinged on the insurance companies’ denial of claims filed by survivors. When the Black claimants tried to get payouts for the claims they were denied because the word “riot” at the time was used to characterize what had transpired.

U.S. President Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at a rally during commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre on June 01, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Brown-Burdex shared how an apology opens the door and puts people in a position to be held accountable. 

“I’m not saying that [President Biden] should not make an apology as the president of the United States, that an apology should not be offered, but I’m saying apologies have been offered previously by other elected officials and what we need now is reparations and definitely changes in policies,” she said.

While Brown-Burdex credited Biden for sharing ideas, recommendations for changes in polices and procedures during their gathering, she emphasized that there still needs to be a conversation about reparations. 

Read More: Biden to announce billions for racial equity in housing during Tulsa visit

“I want to be clear that reconciliation for us is not possible without reparations. And reparations is not a park. Reparations isn’t telling the story,” Brown-Burdex said. “Reparations is direct repayment for what was lost for the survivors and their descendants, and then addressing the historical trauma that affects the entire community, North Tulsa community, African American community today.” 

Meanwhile, others believe it’s too late for an apology or it won’t have significant impacts. Some people spoke out against an apology and weighed in on the question about reparations. 

Tulsa "Black Wall Street" sign is seen during the Juneteenth celebration
The “Black Wall Street” sign is seen during the Juneteenth celebration in the Greenwood District on June 19, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

“An apology? What good will that do? We need real systemic change and it starts with investment in our educational and financial opportunities. Apologies aren’t even a starting point,” one Instagram user shared.

“From whom? An apology comes with changed behavior. 100 years too late for an apology. If these United States wanted to do right by ALL ITS CITIZENS, then they should give what is due to its descendants of the enslaved period!” another user shared. 

People around the nation shared their perspectives on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, who pledged to do her part. 

“Spent the day in Tulsa on a panel to discuss moving forward with reparations to compensate for the massacre that took place against the Black people of Greenwood. It is time for justice for the families and the descendants. As the Chairwoman of U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, I am going to do my part,” she shared on Twitter.

Many others also committed to doing their part as communities remembered this dark day in history.

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